The place of women in the UK civil engineering industry

Watts, Jacqueline H. (1999). The place of women in the UK civil engineering industry. In: Women's Worlds Conference, 20-26 Jun 1999, Tromso, Norway.


This paper sets out to explore the themes and issues which are relevant to understanding the career experience of professional women civil engineers in Britain. A central focus of the paper is gender as a variable in career experiences and organisational processes. A good number of studies ( e.g. women scientists in the NHS, Hilary Homans 1987, women GPs, Barbara Lawrence, 1987 ) have shown how women are ostracised, alienated, belittled or made invisible when they enter male-dominated work places. Despite this, for many years now women have been entering occupations and professions, which traditionally have been perceived as men’s work and within the UK civil engineering profession have begun to make significant inroads. However women remain severely under represented in management and “partner” positions in the consulting firms and the 1998 Salary Survey conducted by the leading industry journal ‘New Civil Engineer’ indicates that in the middle ranks of the profession women earn on average 18% less than their male counterparts and at the top of the profession are present in such small numbers that no comparison could be made. This suggests that the theoretical framework underpinning equal opportunity policy fails to challenge the conceptualisation of work and management as gender neutral. This has been a theme in Cynthia Cockburn’s work on the structure of organisations which has informed my research.The paper will thus discuss the cultural, social and organisational factors affecting the professional progress of women civil engineers in the UK.

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